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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo School Board Again To Seek New School Funding

Issue Date: January 17, 2018

After months of study and discussion by Peshtigo School Board and a 10-member Citizen's Advisory Committee, Peshtigo School Board on Monday, Jan. 15 agreed to once again ask voters to approve construction of a new high school/middle school building.

Recommendations of the committee had been presented to the board at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday Jan. 10 by Committee Chair Clarence Coble, but action was delayed until the special meeting on Jan. 15.

Two questions will be on the ballot for the referendum vote on Tuesday, April 3, one asking voters to approve borrowing up to $29,960,000 for a new building with a two-station gym, and the other seeking authorization to borrow up to an additional $950,000 to add a third gym space to the proposed new building.

The main project would include cost of constructing, furnishing and equipping a 7 through 12 grade Middle-High School on land the district owns and completing site improvements. The second referendum question gives voters the opportunity to support a three-station gym.

The board at the special meeting on Monday approved three resolutions. The first two authorized authorized issuing bonds for the $29,960,000 and $950,000 projects, and the third provided for a referendum election on those two questions and authorized issuing bonds totaling not more than $30,910,000, sum of the amounts needed if both referendum questions are approved.

The resolutions approved by the board are in accord with recommendations of Citizen's Committee that has been studying options since it was organized in February of 2017. Members Bryan Schroeder, Chris Frank, Jason Malke, Jeff Hartwig, Rebecca DeMarce, Rebecca Beavers, Rick Thill, Tricia Kleikamp, Jim Koronkiewicz and Clarence Coble worked for nearly a year with representatives of Sommerville Architects & Engineers and Miron Builders,, studying various options and ideas for building new or renovating and expanding the existing building. They also conducted a community survey before making their recommendation. Based on the results of that survey plans for the new building were revised to bring the cost down.

A conceptual design plan and site layout for new school that the referendum is intended to finance was provided for board members at the meeting. If voters approve in April, nuts and bolts design plans will be drawn. The building is to be constructed on a 27-acre site located across Trout Creek from the existing Middle School/High School and west of the Elementary Learning Center campus. The district purchased the property from the Zak and Gard families in June of 2015 as the location of the new school they hoped to build. A referendum that would have authorized borrowing $32 million for the new school failed by 64 votes in November of 2015. Subsequent referendum attempts failed in April and November of 2016.

With building needs still unmet, the Citizens Advisory Committee was organized and held its first meeting in February of 2017. After visiting other schools, studying various options and getting results of a community survey, they asked Sommerville and Miron to refine the existing building renovation plan and the new school plan to reduce cost without sacrificing academic spaces. After analyzing both options at their most recent meetings the committee advised the district the best investment for the future of the district would be to build new. Most of the advisory committee members were on hand for Monday's board meeting and offered to help inform the community of the need for the new school.

Board members present - Jenni Schwittay, Bob Thomas, Kelly Jones, Gary Larsen, Julie Muenster, Tom Fischer and Steve Coble - all voted in favor of all three resolutions. Board members Mike Fifarek and Cory Hess were absent. The votes came after numerous questions from board members were fielded by Miron representative Craig Sachs and Sommerville representative Melanie Parma.

At the start of the meeting a booklet summarizing actions of the Advisory Committee and results of the community survey was distributed to board members, as was the plan concept for the new building.

Survey results showed that 56 percent of the district's non-parent, non-staff respondents believe the district should go to referendum. "The survey indicated that more residents supported building new, as opposed to investing in the existing; however they did not want to spend $34 million."

Sachs explained that result was why they had scaled back plans for the new building, cutting the cost from over $34 million to less than $30 million, but with the two-station gym, not three. He said there were almost 19,000 square feet of adjustments and cost revisions before coming down to the proposed $29,900,000 plan.

Sachs went on to talk about a plan they will create in cooperation with the district to inform the public and get the referendum approval. He said all the presentations by Miron will be done without additional cost to the district except for the price of mailings.

Steve Coble had several questions, first how many square feet had been cut from the gym and other program areas. Sachs said the original plan with the 3-station gym was 12,000 square feet larger.

"So we're losing 3,000 square feet from what we have now?" Gary Larson asked. The current commons area is used for gym events and phy ed. Sachs noted that space is also used for lunches, etc. He said gym space did not score very well with people who responded to the community survey.

There was talk about problems that will be faced scheduling games and practices if the third gym option is not approved. prom will probably have to be off-site.

The tentative building budget also includes $700,000 demolishing the existing middle school/high school building, so there were remarks that the designers had actually cut nearly $5 million from the construction cost. He asked Sachs if he felt comfortable with the cost estimates, and was told, "Absolutely!"

Steve Coble asked about provision for future additions, and told the designers, "These are conversations we want to have with you. Sachs said a key component is providing planned space for an auditorium addition in future, possibly with the commons area as a potential auditorium lobby. Sachs said the building site is surrounded by wetland, "so we have to be very careful where we put additions and access.

Bob Thomas wondered if they will gain efficiencies in use of space, and Parma replied, "Absolutely"We are making sure we put the right components together." She added that design and materials used will result in much energy savings.

Sachs said they had created a more efficient design and eliminated a lot of small cubby spaces.

Thomas commented community members had expressed concerns to him about "another flat roof." Parma said there is no such thing as a completely "flat" building, but they've come a long way on materials and design since the elementary school was built, and on that size of building a pitched roof is not economically feasible. There will likely need to be a detention pond on the site to collect runoff from the roof and parking lots, and Sachs said that cost is included in site development costs.

Steve Coble asked if they would be using anything from the old building, and Sachs suggested perhaps the generator, and perhaps they could find a way to use the historic old laminated beams from the original old gym, the first ever manufactured in Peshtigo.

"I strongly feel we need a performance space," declared Muenster. She noted the current gym has a stage, and asked if one could be included in the new proposed gym.

Koronkiewicz said survey results strongly showed, "if there was an auditorium, they'd vote it down."

Sachs suggested they might work with a temporary stage and a string of lights "that would be at least presentable"as we proceed we can design some things."

To a question from Schwittay, District Administrator Kim Eparvier said they do not need to be that specific, and if it could be done within the referendum dollar amount they could put a stage in the proposed third gym without having it mentioned in the enabling resolution.

Sachs said in Menasha they put a stage in the Commons area.

Asked how staff members feel about the size reductions, Sachs replied, "Compared to what they have now, the rooms are enormous!"

Eparvier said last week members of the citizens committee had asked him what their role is now. "You are key members of the community"You know more about that school than anybody else," he declared. Clarence Coble, Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Committee, said their committee has agreed to help the board as the referendum goes forward, :But the board has to take a strong lead, be up there pushing!"

"We've been pushing for 10 years," Larsen replied. He noted that some of the surveys comments "questioned the integrity of the board," and added, "I don't know how much more transparent we can be!" He thanked Citizens Committee members for all their hard work.

Koronkiewicz agreed there had been integrity questions out in the community and expressed belief the board made the right decision when it agreed to let the advisory committee go through the study process, and added, "I'm confident the committee is more than willing to support this process going forward."

After the formal board vote approving the referendum, and just before adjournment, Clarence Coble offered, "let us know when, where and how we can help promote "yes' answers."

Discussion on the building needs referendum at the Jan. 10 board meeting had put off until the Jam/ 15 special meeting because some members, including Steve Coble, felt there were too many unanswered questions. Coble commented, "I don't have the comfort level that it meets the districts needs".

Muenster said she was curious if the proposed third gym station was geared toward more athletics or academics. Muenster also commented at the jan. 10 meeting, "It was my understanding that there is no performance space. Would that third gym have a stage area?"

Megan Prestebak, Business Development Specialist in Education Market for Miron Construction of Green Bay said a potential stage could be worked into the design, however the sound would not be of auditorium quality.


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